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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ancient Kauri Pines at Lake Barrine Atherton Tablelands

As part of my recent flying trip to Far North Queensland (FNQ) I met a couple of Bull Kauri Pines ~ Agathis microstachya at the edge of Lake Barrine on the Atherton Tablelands.

(Pictures curtesy of Google Earth 2008)

Now it is always hard to evaluate claims about the age of a particular tree, however in the case of these two Kauris there is some substantial supportive evidence in a number of logs removed from the forest in 2006. The logs were of the same species and very similar diameter to the standing pair on the lakes edge.

Right click this link and open as a new window to view some pictures of the logs and an information plaque. National Register of Big Trees

Whilst it was difficult to view the compararive heights and spread of the canopies of these Kauris relative to the adjacent forest, the substantial difference in grith throughout the lower stems makes a huge impression on anyone standing next to them.


Although the Bull Kauris are not included in the lists that have been put together for the canopy tree of the pre-1800's Mabi Forest that covered large tracts of the Tablelands before the widespread clearing associated with white settlement. Their sheer size and grandeur makes it perfectly obvious to anyone standing under them, why the traditional Aboriginal custodians of this part of Queensland placed so much importance on the forests here.

Mabi Forest is a type of rainforest that occurs in North Queensland. It is found in small patches on the Atherton Tablelands, between the towns of Atherton, Kairi, Yungaburra and Malanda, with a remnant patch also located at Shiptons Flat, near Cooktown. Mabi Forest is otherwise known as Complex Notophyll Vine Forest 5b and includes the Queensland Regional Ecosystem 7.8.3.

Mabi Forest grows on highly fertile basalt-derived soils, and is characterised by an uneven canopy (25–45m) with many tree layers, scattered deciduous and semi-evergreen trees, and a dense shrub and vine layer. The dense shrub layer distinguishes Mabi Forest from similar rainforests, and provides important habitat for up to 114 bird species.

A variety of plants and animals make their homes in Mabi Forest, including the nationally threatened Large-eared Horseshoe Bat and Spectacled Flying-fox. Other species, such as the Musky Ratkangaroo and the nationally endangered Southern Cassowary, used to occur in Mabi Forest. However, the remaining patches of Mabi Forest are too small for these animals to survive in, and so the Musky Rat-kangaroo and Southern Cassowary have become locally extinct
Mabi Forest has been listed as a critically endangered ecological community under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Mabi Forest was listed due to its restricted distribution and vulnerability to ongoing threats. There is only 1050 ha of Mabi Forest left, and this occurs as a series of small, isolated patches. Many of the remnant patches of Mabi Forest are being invaded by exotic smothering vines, and feral and domestic animals. The use of remnant patches of Mabi Forest by stock can impact on this ecological community through trampling, grazing and soil compaction.

National listing of Mabi Forest recognises that its long-term survival is under threat. The purpose of the listing is to prevent its further decline, and assist community efforts toward its recovery.

(Quote from Department of the Environment and Heritage, April 2004)

The raised boardwalk next to the two trees is providing good protection to their roots and the soil environment, in fact the forest on this side of the lake appeared to have very good age diversity and a complexity of habitat indicating good ecological health and stability.

I would have liked to had time to walk around the whole lake but there were many other spots to visit on the trip up to FNQ - Part of that trip can be followed here (The Wandering Arborist Blog)

NB A video of these two Ancient Trees can be viewed here Veteran Tree Group Video Blog: Ancient Kauri Pines


  1. The climate on the Atherton Tablelands is redundant described as natural air conditioning. Although this descriptive phrase is correct, it is only applicable to visitors warm climates such as coastal city of Cairns. Climate interstate and international guests on the Atherton Tablelands described as warm in winter and sweltering in summer. It is a matter of perception. The Atherton Tablelands begins 60 km west of Cairns, and whose height varies from 600 to 1100 meters. The area is free of humidity of the coast and high temperatures, making it very comfortable.

  2. Thanks for the clarification Alisha, yes of course most descriptors tend to be subjective. To many Australians that live on the coast of the eastern seaboard or the lower altitudes between the coast and the ranges would find the remaining woodlands and forest of the tablelands as pretty close to 'air-conditioning'...but your point is well taken that to those visitors from colder or even temperate climates might well find (at least at first) the climate in NQ very warm indeed.